Following a long career in dance competitions with her dance partner Ryan McShane, earlier this year, Ksenia Zsikhotska could be seen competing on Dancing With the Stars in Ireland, where she came fourth alongside singer Dayl Cronin. She has been dancing from a young age and has competed and performed all over the world. Having just got back from holiday, we talk to Ksenia about her appearance on the show, her career as a dancer and the opening of her new dance studio, Studio1.
Is it difficult fitting in a holiday with your work schedule?
It can be tricky but it’s important to get away and do something different, even if it’s for a few days only, I like to be a little spontaneous and unwind.
How did you get into ballroom dancing and have you always danced?
I actually started with folk dancing at the age of four back in Ukraine, but when my mum and myself moved to England, other things were prioritised and dancing took a back seat for a while. Then at the age of fourteen, I realised how much I missed it and really wanted to get back dancing.
What was your first season on Dancing With the Stars Ireland like and how did you get involved with it?
The first season on Dancing With The Stars was amazing it’s such a great show to be part of… Darren Bennett, one of the producers, approached me and asked if this is something that I would be interested in and it went from there.
How was it teaching your dance partner on the show, Dayl Cronin?
I couldn’t have wished to be teamed up with anyone better than Dayl. He is a great dancer in his field and that allowed me to challenge the choreography as much as I did.
You’ve been dancing with Ryan McShane for many years, what was it like dancing with someone else on the show?
Dancing with a professional partner in a style that you both are trained in is completely different to dancing with someone who is not from that background in dance.
What was it like performing on live TV every week?
Adrenaline and excitement come into play and I couldn’t wait to get out there. Of course, there are a few nerves, but we all put in so much time from every aspect… i.e. set, costumes, themes and music, you feel a great sense of achievement to be able to perform (and share it with a great audience…) at the end of the week. I am very grateful for all the support I received.
You’ve toured around the country before, what’s it like performing in new and different venues every night?
I am fortunate enough to tour around the world and perform on different stages and to great audiences, I love every second of it and wouldn’t change it for the world…
What are your favourite and least favourite dances to perform?
I am a Latin girl at heart, I love how passionate and rhythmical the Latin rhythms are… but I can be swayed to the romantic and classical side of ballroom.
What do you do when you aren’t dancing or appearing on Dancing with the Stars?
Ryan and I, along with James and Fran from JF Dance, have just opened a new studio in Walsall in the UK called Studio1, so we are currently working hard to promote this and encourage dancers to get involved. Aside from that I am teaching, lecturing, judging and of course, continuing to do shows.
Do you get nervous when performing with your dance partner Ryan in competitions?
Performing can be daunting to say the least, no matter if it’s on the competition floor, stage or live TV because there are so many factors that can go wrong. But the great thing about Latin and Ballroom is that you are not on your own and the partnership works as a support magnesium.
How do you prepare for competitions, do you have to change your lifestyle at all?
Yes, your lifestyle completely changes as a competitor, you need to adapt yourself to a very intense training regime, correct diet, mental preparation and of course, costumes!
The Charleston looks like a fun dance to do, is it difficult to choreograph?
No, not at all as I really enjoy choreographing this one. As soon as I hear the music I can visualise the dance. Dancing with Dayl allowed me to go crazy because he is very talented.
Have you had any disasters on the dance floor?
Where do I start! There is always something that could go wrong no matter how much you have prepared. One of my first competitions my shoes came off halfway through the dance and my dress was unhooking itself! One of my dresses was so heavy stoned that dancing with it was difficult, but you just have to make it work at the time and remember the show must go on.
You moved from Ukraine to the UK when you were young, do you think you would have still got into dancing if you would have stayed in Ukraine?
There is no doubt that I would still be dancing if I was living in Ukraine as it’s something that I am very passionate about.
If you weren’t dancing what do you think you would be doing?
My second passion is designing and fashion. I have always designed my own competitive dresses, I love the creative side of it all. Doing DWTS made me realise that I really enjoyed the production side and it’s something that I would love to explore more.
Do you have anybody who motivates you to get even better in what you do?
My mum is my greatest motivation, she knows me too well… I also find motivation in life and the things I do or people I come across.
What do you enjoy most about being a professional dancer?
Being creative, performing, having the chance to travel the world and meet amazing people.
What’s your advice for people hoping to get into dance?
It is a great skill to learn whether you take it up professionally or as a hobby. Dance is a language that is used all around the world and it’s a great social skill to have, keeping you fit is just a bonus.
How many hours a week were you rehearsing when you first started out?
At first, dancing was a hobby to me, so for the earlier stages of it, I only did a few hours a week. When I decided to take it up professionally and competitively, the hours of rehearsal changed dramatically, I would train up to six hours a day, six to seven days a week.
Do you think you’d ever become a dance teacher if you ever stopped competing professionally?
Ryan and I retired from competitive dancing last November when we became British Closed Professional Latin Champions UK show dance champions which was an unforgettable feeling to end our competitive dancing career on a high! I love teaching, passing on my dance knowledge and then seeing the results.
What do you hope 2017 will bring for you?
2017 has been great to me so far, I have done so many incredible things that I don’t know where to start so hopefully it continues in this way.
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